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Grrrrl Power

Apr
6
2004

It’s a shorter story without the breadth and depth of the first “Out of India” story she did but, once again Salon’s Katherine Mieszkowski does a fine job reporting on what’s going on with outsourcing in India.
This second story one that focuses on that formerly all-American phenomena, the self-employed entrepreneur. In this case, however, it’s not some nerdy IIT (India Institute of Technology) grad but a lovely young woman named Rachna Asirvatham whose company Smart Webby designs web stuff for other small companies. Asirvatham is in Bangalore, the Palo Alto of India, and most of her clients – it’s not hard – are American.


I’m so happy Mieszkowski, whose been reporting on Geeks for so long she could be one, is finally making a very important point about how the computer software business has changed. It’s easier. The creative stuff that used to pay hundreds now only pays thousands. Hell, if I can run this blog…
Mieszkowski’s decision to focus on a young woman got me thinking about something that struck me when I was in India three years ago. Has anyone bothered to think about the dramatic changes that are being made as women like Asirvatham become economically independent in places like India? The New York Times hinted at his a few weeks ago when it did a piece about how telemarketing center employees in Bangalore have more Western life-styles. But that story talked about drinking and dating and credit – things that are new to Indian women, to be sure – and not about the social consequences of changing the way in which a nation regards women. This isn’t just economics; in India it’s a seismic class change, too. Western comforts (for lack of a better word) are seeping down in to rural India villages. And a trip through rural India is more like a journey back in time – think oh, West Texas or North Carolina in let’s say 1950 — than it is a visit to another country.
When you take away the hard labor part of work, when you make it about brain power and only about brain power – and that’s what software is – you level the balance of power between men and women. And in India at this particular time, the intermediary factory step between the countryside and the big city is getting skipped right over. That’s not as true in China. And, as today’s New York Times shows, it’s not true — for better but mostly for worse — in South and Central America.
Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of factories and industries in India. But the good big jobs are in services and thinking. And, in many cultures when you take away the prestige that hard, heavy work is accorded, you’re giving women the same economic status as men and you’re doing it quickly. We here in the West have been struggling with this for two generations now and, well, let’s just say progress comes in fits and starts. You want to take a look at India and tell me what’s going to happen? I’m betting none of us knows. And the political implications of that ignorance — combined with the current administration’s focus on places on China and Russia — won’t prepare the West for what could be some rather unpleasant political shocks.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:34 AM | Permalink

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